Fraudulent holiday sickness claims were causing a problem for Thomas Cook, which was receiving in excess of 2,000 new claims a month in early 2017, a dramatic increase from about 400 a month in 2015. Changes to the law in 2012 made them an attractive and lucrative market for claims-management firms.
The holiday operator wanted to highlight the fraud, change the law and mobilise the industry – but not appear heartless about genuine claims.
The issue was highlighted via an op-ed by the company’s chief executive in the Mail on Sunday. Thomas Cook then used a customer-facing blog and in-resort comms to warn customers of the danger of claims companies and position itself as being on the side of its customers.
It maintained a regular news flow based on legal cases and claims figures – for example, showing that UK customers submitted 4,000 claims versus 39 from Scandinavians and 114 from Germans.
Thomas Cook also used legal cases and media coverage to target politicians and civil servants to build momentum for a change in the law; the subject was covered in a parliamentary debate and the volume of new claims fell. In May 2018, when the government confirmed changes in the law to stop fraudsters, the firm received less than five per cent of the number of claims it had at the peak.
Our business was facing a serious threat from a substantial rise in fraudulent sickness claims. We needed to create an environment to discourage new claims, while putting ourselves on the side of customers. We also needed a change in the law. We achieved this through an op-ed and blog, followed by a campaign of coverage and lobbying using our data and legal cases. In May 2018 the law changed, and our auditors attributed the almost 90% decline in claims to 'increased press coverage' and as a result removed millions of financial liability from our accounts.